It is normal and natural to feel affected by human suffering and the pressures of working in emergency situations – especially if exposed to distressing or graphic material or stories on a regular basis. However, it is important to be able to recognise and respond early on to the signs of psychological impact.
Compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma are two such impacts, and commonly arise in those whose roles involve responding to the suffering of others; they can easily contribute to burnout.
This infosheet for those supporting human rights defenders introduces the interrelated concepts of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout. It also sets out the signs to look out for in yourself and colleagues, and offers some measures you can take in response.